Voting rights re-emerge as a congressional flashpoint
A Republican-led House Committee is set to bigfoot a DC voting law days after another introduced a measure inspired by Georgia’s infamous anti-voter law.
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The House Oversight Committee will meet this morning to mark up several bills, including one that would ban noncitizens who live in Washington, DC from voting in local elections.
The hearing follows the introduction of the American Confidence in Elections Act, a so-called “election integrity” bill sponsored by Bryan Steil (R-WI) and unveiled during a field hearing on Monday in Georgia, the nation’s most prominent voting rights battleground.
The DC city council passed a law last year that allows all residents over 18 to vote in local elections, regardless of whether they had proper records and identification for admission into the US, as long as they lived in the district for at least 30 days.
And although the House in February voted 260-162 to overturn the law, the measure died in the Senate because it failed to receive a floor vote within the mandatory 30-day window.
By this time, Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) had already reintroduced HR 192, the bill House Oversight will vote on today, with Reps. Jake Ellzey (R-TX) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as cosponsors.
“They have passed a bill to allow illegal immigrants, Chinese and Russian agents, foreign exchange students, and quite literally anyone who finds themselves on the streets of DC in our nation’s capital for longer than 30 days, the ability to vote in local elections,” Pfluger said during a February floor speech. “This should not be a partisan issue and you don’t have to be a Republican to understand why this is wrong.”
A few other progressive municipalities, including New York City and Montpellier, Vermont, have passed laws that allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. But they pale in comparison to the tremendous conservative outrage that would have you believe our elections have been corrupted by undocumented immigrants flooding the ballot box and not former President Donald Trump’s debunked lie that the election was stolen from him.
Whatever your politics may be on the issue of noncitizens voting in local elections, resist the temptation to base them on the GOP’s demonization of a minuscule population of the total electorate. And even if you disagree with the DC laws or those of its vein, immigration advocates argue there’s a case to be made for residents having a say in their community policymaking since they work, pay taxes, own homes, and send their kids to school in these localities.
Voting rights played a prominent role in the first year of Joe Biden’s presidency. The stains of the January 6th attack were still fresh when he took office and part of Biden’s pitch was his capacity to “restore the soul of the nation,” which many interpreted as Bidenesque flourish that translated to a desire to repair our battered democracy. And what’s more democratic than the right to vote?
Not to mention, civil rights leaders and young people, and voters of color had sounded the alarm on bills like Georgia’s SB 202, which limited the number of drop boxes voters can use to return their ballots, banned individuals and groups from giving water and food to people waiting in line to vote, and allowed any voter to challenge the eligibility of another.
Biden expensed much of his early political capital addressing these concerns, culminating with a high-profile speech before students at the Atlanta University Center in tandem with Vice President Kamala Harris to call for voting rights legislation with nothing to show for it.
Ultimately, the Senate failed twice to break a Republican filibuster on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the bill named after the late civil rights activist and Atlanta congressman that passed the House twice and would have in part restored some of the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the Supreme Court gutted in 2013.
With Biden and Harris’s blessing, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) led a gambit to change the rules so the bill would be spared from the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. But Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), supporters of the John Lewis Act, opposed the rules change.
After the bruising defeats, White House and congressional Democrats pivoted to passing the economic agenda that now makes up the substance of what the administration has dubbed, “Bidenomics.”
Now the issue is back in the news cycle, as Steil touts the House GOP’s opportunity to pass the “most conservative election integrity bill to be seriously considered in the House in over 20 years.”
The legislation includes 50 standalone bills sponsored by House Republicans and with provisions that require photo ID to vote in federal elections, ban unsolicited mail ballots, and allow conservative political speech to be weaponized.
Steil points to SB 202 as a success story after the state saw the highest voter turnout in midterm history following the passage of the law despite voting rights advocates amplifying how it would lead to voter suppression.
“I will say as I do very often that the vernacular way of putting it is more people in the water does not mean there are fewer sharks,” Stacey Abrams, the two-time Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia and voting rights activist, said in the wake of the state’s midterm results. “The barriers to access are real. SB 202 is continuing to harm voters, and it is continuing unabated.”
These barriers are maintained in the ACE Act, according to Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY), the top House Administration Democrat, who added the bill is designed to appease extremist election deniers who have spent the past four years attacking US democracy.
In particular, the bill would limit the freedom to vote with its mail ballot restrictions, burden election workers who are already facing unprecedented harassment from partisan poll watchers, invite more secret money into the political process, and allow extreme gerrymandering.
“The Big Lie origins SB 202 mirror the origins of the majority’s ACE Act,” Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, said during the field hearing. “And the damaging effects of SB 202 on Georgia voters will be imposed upon all Americans if the ACE Act is enacted nationally.”
Even before the markup of Pfluger’s bill was announced and the ACE Act was introduced, voting rights were set to be a priority for the Congressional Black Caucus, the influential bloc of House Democrats who are currently embarking on a summer of action with voter education and voter registration at the forefront.
And prior to the Supreme Court overturning affirmative action in higher education and blocking President Biden’s student debt relief plan, it struck down an Alabama congressional map because it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The decision paved the way for Alabama to add another majority-Black district with the same outcome likely in Louisiana. Democrats are hopeful for favorable outcomes as the maps in South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio are litigated. (In related news, a House Democratic aide confirmed to Supercreator Daily that former Attorney General Eric Holder will attend the weekly House Democratic Caucus meeting this morning to discuss the recent decisions.)
CBC Chairman Steven Horsford (D-NV) said following the court’s decision that the caucus would continue to advocate for the John Lewis Act, advocacy that’s expected to intensify to draw a contrast against the GOP’s efforts.
“We will also be leading efforts in the weeks and months to come to ensure Black voters have the access to the ballot box, free and fair elections, and that these unconstitutional congressional districts are redrawn so that we achieve the full representation our constituents are promised, under the law.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
3:15 a.m. President Biden attended the North Atlantic Council meeting with heads of state and government, Sweden, Indo-Pacific partners, and the European Union.
6 a.m. The president attended a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting with heads of state and government and Sweden.
8:10 a.m. President Biden will take a family photo with the G7 leaders.
8:45 a.m. The president will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
10 a.m. The House will meet and begin consideration of the 2024 defense policy and programs bill with first and last votes expected at 1:30 p.m.
The Senate will also meet and take its first two votes at 11:30 a.m. to confirm Tiffany Cartwright to be US District Judge for the Western District of Washington and advance the nomination of Myong Joun to be US District Judge for the District of Massachusetts.
12:45 p.m. President Biden will speak about Ukraine, democracy, and the challenges facing the world.
1 p.m. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will arrive in Columbus, Ohio.
1:15 p.m. Vice President Harris will meet with civil rights leaders and consumer protection experts to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence on society.
1:30 p.m. Dr. Biden attend the launch of Columbus’ Workforce Hub to promote Bidenomics.
2:10 p.m. President Biden will travel from Vilnius, Lithuania to Helsinki, Finland, arriving at 3:25 p.m.
2:30 p.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the Joun nomination and advance the nomination of Kalpana Kotagal to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
5 p.m. Dr. Biden will join first ladies from across Africa for the first convening of the Global First Ladies Academy at Columbia University. She is also expected to speak and participate in a conversation with the first ladies on their roles as first spouses. The first lady will arrive in NYC at 4:30 p.m.
5:30 p.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the Kotagal nomination and advance the nomination of David Uhlmann to be an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
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THEY DID THAT
The House Rules Committee last night passed the rule by a vote of 9-4 to begin consideration for the National Defense Authorization Act. It allows for 290 amendments to be debated and voted on out of more than 1,500 submitted. House Democratic leadership is recommending that its members vote against the rule. The second rule could be reported from the committee to allow for additional amendments.
Chuck Schumer led 18 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to Robin Rosenberg, chair of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rights, to ask her to provide recommendations to district courts to prevent forum shopping. This practice, which allows litigants to hand-pick district judges they view as sympathetic to their case, results in a two-tiered justice system, the senators write, where in certain places, plaintiffs can choose to file in areas where they know ideologies of one or two judges that sit on the bench.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and seven Senate Democrats introduced a bill that restricts tax breaks for private equity firms and other large outside investors that purchase thousands of homes in local communities, driving up their prices. Specifically, the Stop Predatory Investing Act would prohibit an investor who acquires 50 or more single-family rental homes from deducting interest or depreciation on those properties.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the top House Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced a bipartisan package focused on transparency in health care. The lawmakers say the four-bill package will lower premiums and reduce health care spending, and remove incentives for provider consolidation to increase competition.
Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Sens. Ben Ray Luhán (D-NM) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) reintroduced the TLDR Act, which would require commercial websites and mobile apps to create a simple and readable summary of their terms-of-service agreement. (Small businesses are exempt.) Formally titled, the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability, would promote online transparency and inform consumers about how their personal data is collected and used.
Vice President Harris announced the White House will cap child care copays at seven percent of income for families who receive federal child care assistance.
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